Friday, February 27, 2009

first blush of spring, and crisis breeds cool graphics

This is the coolest video I've seen in awhile! The Crisis of Credit Visualized is so visually interesting and explains things so clearly.

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

Breaking news: Just yesterday, Buckner launched a totally new website. See it at My favorite part is the really cool world map showing where all 300,000 kids we take care of are located. I want to go everywhere!

Also, friends, it has been gloriously warm this week. Twice I went for an after-work stroll around the lake with my husband, watching little kids feed the ducks and grandpa's practicing their putting on the green. What a fantastic way to spend an hour.
Spring is coming....

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Devastatingly beautiful rooms.

I can't get enough. To die for. In my dreams my dining room is also a library, complete with a tufted bench.
Sorry color-lovers, but I really just love a black and white room.

Monday, February 16, 2009

My Beef with Beef.

This morning I read a fascinating argument that because "hamburgers are the Hummers of food", beef and dairy are terrible for the environment . This was not the first time I had heard this, as both the best-selling nutrition book Skinny Bitch and my freshmen Environmental Science 101 class made the same argument.

We know that everything has "costs" to the environment- ie, scientists/economists can calculate not only the dollar-sign cost of a new laptop, they can calculate how much water was consumed to make it, or the damage done by the processes to make the plastic casing, or the contamination that the cadmium in the laptop will cause when it winds up in the landfill, etc.

Cows are simply very inefficient. For instance, if you eat a meal's worth of salad (lets say .5 pounds of greens), you will be full. But if you eat a meal's worth of beef (let's say a quarter-pounder hamburger), the cow might have had to eat 100 pounds of greens to produce that quarter-pound of meat.

The article states that almost 20% of the world's carbon emissions come from the livestock industry. Holy cow!! And beef is the worst of all the meats- a single kilogram of beef produces 16 kilograms of carbon dioxide, ten times more than that of chicken.

Plus, we eat way too much red meat in the first place. You're only supposed to eat 2 servings of protein each day, with a serving being 3 ounces.

As if we didn't already have enough reasons to skip red meat! Red meat is linked to higher rates of diseases including heart disease, atherosclerosis, breast cancer, colon cancer, Alzheimer's, arthritis, and endometriosis.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Stimulus Winners and Losers

WASHINGTON ( CNN ) -- Here is a breakdown of who gained, who lost and who survived in the final economic stimulus bill that the House and Senate are expected to vote on Friday:


High-speed and inner-city rail: Went from $300 million in House bill to $2.25 billion in Senate to $8 billion in final version. There also is a $6.9 billion provision for public transit.

Amtrak: Picked up $500 million from both House and Senate versions to total $1.3 billion. The bill stipulates that no more than 60 percent can go to the Northeast Corridor.

National Institutes of Health: Ends up with $10 billion in the final bill. The House proposed $3.5 billion and the Senate wanted $10 billion -- $8.2 billion goes to the NIH director for his discretion.

Government oversight: Board to oversee stimulus bill spending will get $84 million to do the job. House bill allocated $14 million while the Senate bill called for $7 million. There is also more than $100 million more for various inspectors general in different agencies.

NASA: Banked just more than $2 billion, including $400,000 for science/global-warming research. Watch congressional comments on the stimulus bill »


Veterans: Nearly all items for Veterans Affairs were reduced and the $2 billion the Senate wanted for VA construction was wiped out altogether. The VA did get one thing: $1 billion for medical facilities renovation and retooling.

Military construction: Cut and put into a general pot, a change from targeted money for each branch of the services. Army construction alone went from $600 million in the Senate and $900 million in the House to $180 million in the final bill. But negotiators compromised over a general military construction fund -- the House wanted $3.75 billion while the Senate allocated $118 million and settled on $1.45 billion for all services.

FBI: Senate had allocated $475 million but all was cut out of final bill.


Pandemic flu research: Although senators agreed it wouldn't produce jobs, it's getting $50 million in the final bill, down from nearly $900 million.

Foreclosures: $2 billion is set for a neighborhood stabilization program that helps areas plagued with foreclosures by buying back properties and preventing blight.

Homeless: $1.5 billion is directed to homelessness prevention.

Passports: $90 million is going to the State Department to deal with domestic facilities that deal with passports and training.

Social Security: $500 million goes to replace its 30-year-old computer system.

Tax breaks

Car buyers: Anyone who buys a new car in 2009 gets to deduct the sales tax. To qualify, buyer must make less than $125,000 individually or $250,000 jointly. Cost is $1.7 billion.

Homebuyers: First-time homebuyers who purchase this calendar year get an $8,000 tax credit which does not have to be repaid like a similar measure last year. This phases out for people making more than $75,000 individually or $150,000 jointly. "First-time homebuyer" is defined as someone who has not owned a home for the past three years. Cost: $6.63 billion.

Pell grants: will increase to a maximum of $5,350 per student in 2009-2010 year thanks to two provisions in the stimulus.

Tax credits: Individuals making less than $80,000 or families making less than $160,000 can get up to $2,500 in tax credits for college tuition. 40 percent ($1,000) of the credit is refundable.
Cost: $13.9 billion over 10 years.

Tax credits: Anyone making $75,000 individually or $150,000 as a family will get refundable tax credit up to $400 per person or $800 per family.

My Love

This week is LOVEly for more than one reason. Yes, Valentines, of course. But more importantly, my husband's birthday!
25 reasons he is amazing, for the 25 years of his life:

25. He runs out in the rain and moves my car when it might hail.
24. He writes me love notes on the mirror in our bathroom.
23. He has developed an entire secret language, known only to us:)
22. He cooks me a hot dinner almost every day.
21. He tolerates my obsessive eco-nazi behavior and helps me stuff everything through the tiny slot in the recycling dumpster.
20. He holds me accountable.
19. He makes me eat healthier. As in, "Katie, chips and salsa is not a real dinner."
18. He tell me I am beautiful all the time.
17. His love language is 'acts of service' and he does more than half the chores in our little apt.
16. He invests in my family.
15. He flemail/flexts me all day at work.
14. He is the hardest worker I have ever known.
13. He forgives me really quickly when I ask.
12. He is a fantastic kisser!
11. He caters to my extreme cold-naturedness without complaining....much:)
10. He is serious about service and leads us in finding ways to work with youth.
9. He makes people feel instantly at ease and comfortable.
8. He is a fabulous host.
7. He loves reading and history- so sexy.
6. He is far more generous than I.
5. He is a loyal brother, son, and grandson.
4. He encourages me to pursue my weird hobbies.
3. He is really good with kids.
2. He lets me wear his favorite his favorite Mr. Snuffleupagus t-shirt all the time.
1. He. loves. me. so. well.
Happy birthday, Husband!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sosy and Yeneneh is a blog that has captured my heart.

Brian Seay (brother of Robbie, as in Robbie Seay Band) and his wife live in Nashville and already had four beautiful children. But God led them to adoption, and they have just returned home from Ethiopia with their two new little ones, Sosy and Yeneneh.

Read their story, and see photos of their new children discovering Times Square, electric garage doors, and birthday cake.
One month ago, 3-year-old Sosy lived in an Ethiopian orphanage. Now look at her. She and her new sister Penelope don't speak the same language yet, but they can play dress up. Think of the life that she will have now.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Koalas, Guatemala, and Being Muslim in America

If this blog had a status, it would say:
Big City Pretty is: a sickie. Not feeling well, sore throat, not sleeping well.

Australia has suffered terrible fires over the last few days. This picture broke my heart. The koalas are suffering! What a tender, vulnerable moment.

This interesting article describes an experiment about what it's like to be Muslim in America. A group of Islamic Studies students from American University are traveling across the country exploring that theme. Sometimes they dress in Muslim headscarves. Sometimes they meet with interesting people: Latino Muslims, Muslim rappers, or refugees. Their blog is

Yesterday, a dream came true. I got the final confirmation that I am going to Guatemala- in three weeks!! Can't wait, can't wait:)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Life-changing websites.

Do yourself a favor.

Check out and right this very second!

I have been on a Mint soapbox for some time now, but have only recently discovered the joy that is Evernote.

Mint helps your organize your money, for free! It downloads your debit card transactions and allows you to create custom graphs/charts using your own categories. Want to see how much you spent on groceries this month, or in the last six months? Mint will tell you. Want to see how much you spent at CVS, or Target, or on movie tickets in the past year? Mint will tell you.

Mint will also research ways you can make more money- ie, what banks are offering higher interest rates on savings accounts, or lower credit card interest rates. Mint is also kind enough to help you set budgets for each category and will send you an email or text message when you hit your monthly budget for, say, gas or restaurants. Mint will even email you to remind you to pay your bills. Mint is such a good buddy.

Evernote is your "external brain". Evernote lets you paste into it everything you ever wanted to keep track of and has very clever search engines to help you find it later using 'tags' that you create. For instance, I am constantly seeing beautiful rooms on interior design blogs. Instead of printing them and filing them by room type or saving the image on my computer, I simply paste the photo into Evernote and tag it with whatever I choose (green walls, blue couch, Parsons table, etc). Then later I search "green walls" and Evernote will find it!

This is particular helpful if you are into beautiful rooms because the old method (filing by room type) means that if you are searching for something like 'white curtains' that could be in any room of the house you would have to look through all your files.

Or, some people take photos of things with their Iphone or regular camera and paste everything into Evernote. For instance, you could snap a pic with your phone of that awesome wine bottle label so you can remember it later, or you could snap a pic of that business card you received and then throw it away, never to worry again. Think of all the paper items you keep track of- receipts, addresses, coupons- they could all be stored in Evernote an accessed from any computer in the world.

These people are geniuses.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Inspiration board and desk rescue

The obvious item in this funky office is the sunny yellow inspiration board. It's a fun, cheery central piece, for sure, but the hidden gem here is the desk.

The desk sells in pieces at Ikea or Container Store, among many others, and you choose your own legs and tabletop for sometimes under $50. This one is customized by really tightly wrapped graphic fabric topped with a custom piece of glass. What a great idea! As I'm finally clearing the last items from the rents' house, I have one of these plain ol' boring desks in the back of the pile-what a great way to fix it up! If only it had any storage...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Model transformation

Remember the Dove Evolution video? Well, here's version 2.0: model transformations, before-and-after photos from the 2009 runway shows. Unreal!

Wasteful spending, why I'm wrong, and midcentury I can live with.

Quite the mishmash of things bouncing around in my world. Well, what else is new.Now that Domino is dead (let's take a moment for a heavy sigh) Desire to Inspire has become my new favorite place for interior enlightenment. It's heavy on the mid century look, which I normally don't gravitate to, but this gorgeous green room I can live with- probably because of how traditional the sofa and tailored ottoman are. I love the X-desk just like I love little X-benches/ottomans, and the beautiful half-moon door frame reminds me of my favorite college apartment and, well, I'll bare my nerdiness, Bag End, home of Bilbo Baggins in Hobbiton (Lord of the Rings- I warned you, giant nerd).This room below has such a cool Moroccan vibe, and I love the leather-like finish on the walls. The richly colored walls and bright white upholstery remind me of Capri- its a very Mediterranean, breezy, ocean-view-while-its stifling-hot feel.
Secondly, this stimulus package is turning into a giant mess. Senate Republicans have just released this GOP Leaders' Waste List which notes all the projects currently in the stimulus package that they think are ridiculous pork pet projects, and certainly aren't going to create the kind of jobs Americans need to get back on their feet.

• $2 billion earmark to re-start FutureGen, a near-zero emissions coal power plant in Illinois that the Department of Energy defunded last year because it said the project was inefficient.
• A $246 million tax break for Hollywood movie producers to buy motion picture film.
• $650 million for the digital television converter box coupon program.
• $88 million for the Coast Guard to design a new polar icebreaker (arctic ship).
• $448 million for constructing the Department of Homeland Security headquarters.
• $248 million for furniture at the new Homeland Security headquarters.
• $600 million to buy hybrid vehicles for federal employees.
• $400 million for the Centers for Disease Control to screen and prevent STD's.
• $1.4 billion for rural waste disposal programs.
• $125 million for the Washington sewer system.
• $150 million for Smithsonian museum facilities.
• $1 billion for the 2010 Census, which has a projected cost overrun of $3 billion.
• $75 million for "smoking cessation activities."
• $200 million for public computer centers at community colleges.
• $75 million for salaries of employees at the FBI.
• $25 million for tribal alcohol and substance abuse reduction.
• $500 million for flood reduction projects on the Mississippi River.
• $10 million to inspect canals in urban areas.
• $6 billion to turn federal buildings into "green" buildings.
• $500 million for state and local fire stations.
• $650 million for wildland fire management on forest service lands.
• $1.2 billion for "youth activities," including youth summer job programs.
• $88 million for renovating the headquarters of the Public Health Service.
• $412 million for CDC buildings and property.
• $500 million for building and repairing National Institutes of Health facilities in Bethesda, Maryland.
• $160 million for "paid volunteers" at the Corporation for National and Community Service.
• $5.5 million for "energy efficiency initiatives" at the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration.
• $850 million for Amtrak.
• $100 million for reducing the hazard of lead-based paint.
• $75 million to construct a "security training" facility for State Department Security officers when they can be trained at existing facilities of other agencies.
• $110 million to the Farm Service Agency to upgrade computer systems.
• $200 million in funding for the lease of alternative energy vehicles for use on military installations.

Which of these are wasteful, and which are useful?
Finally, a story that illustrates how my judgments are flawed, all the time:
I take the DART train to work every day. This is awesome, because its green and free; my office foots the bill. It is, however, also dangerous, and that point was driven home to me last week when one of my fellow female coworkers witnessed a brutal beating/robbery by gang members last week in broad daylight, ON THE TRAIN not the station platform, all over a stupid little Ipod. So I've been extra cautious this week, over and above my usual paranoid state while on the train.
Yesterday morning I am late, and underdressed for the cold, and the train is full. I am standing by the doors, where I have been warned not to stand because it is easier for a theif to grab your purse when the train is stopped and run out the doors and get away.
Two really rough looking young men are sitting a few seats in front of me. When I get on one turns around and stares at me. I return his glare with a really mean look (this is a thing I do on the train....). He turns around again a few seconds later, and again, and again. I am now holding my keys in my pocket, getting alarmed. Then he nudges his friend, and makes a gesture toward me, and a shock of adrenaline goes through me as he starts to stand up, and I am certain he something is about to go down, and I am preparing myself to make a scene.
He comes toward me, and then he speaks: "Maam, would you like my seat?"
And I am so ashamed of myself, and I say "No, thank you."
Where is the balance between being crazy and being smart? Where do I get to hold onto my prejudice because they might save your life (or just your cell phone, or your wedding ring) on public transportation where robberies and attacks are real, and where am I required to see people as Jesus sees them? Am I a Christian, or am I a small woman by herself? Is it that black and white?
All I am sure of is that the DART makes me think about these things, confront the feelings and judgments I have on that train about strangers every morning and evening, and for that reason alone I am certain that riding it is good for me.